Friday, February 22, 2013

Dayton "Dirt" - February 22, 2013

Today marks the 281st birthday of George Washington, surveyor, military man, statesman (president) and farmer. I just marvel when I think that if Washington had his way, he would have loved to spend all his time at his home Mt. Vernon to farm after the war. Washington did experiment with crop rotation and composting manure as he was wise enough to know that the soil needed tending to be productive. Farmers today know the importance of caring for the land as they now routinely rotate their crops and are active in planting cover crops in order to build the tilth of the productive soil. Lately, the farms in western Ohio along the Maumee River basin are thought to contribute up to 40% of the nutrient pollution to Lake Erie which is right up there with the overflow of the Detroit sewage treatment. It seems that the runoff from the larger than average Ohio farms contains nutrients which contribute to algae bloom in the Lake. The state government is now working with farmers to reduce the runoff that results from applying chemical fertilizer and manure on the fields frozen over in wintertime. Runoff from the urbanized areas is also to blame for major pollution of creeks, streams, rivers and lakes and hopefully will not escape the reduction of runoff needed from these areas too. As always, Carol Zeh’s program on Hummingbirds was a smash hit. Just what is it about these amazing creatures by which most of us seemed to be entranced? The wonders of the natural world are all around us that we normally take for granted. Taking time to learn about these wonders and time for reflection would for sure serve us all well. Tom

Monday, February 18, 2013

Dayton "Dirt" - February 15, 2013

The “magic” date is finally here; that is the date in which the average daily temperatures begin to rise signaling the beginning of the end of winter and the anticipated commencement of spring. I’m thankful that at least so far we have had somewhat adequate snow and rain and the temperatures have not been overly warm or too cold placing stress on trees and shrubs as had happened last year with the too warm winter followed by a too warm and dry spring. Things are popping in the greenhouse full of annual flowers from cuttings we have been taking from stock plants since December and from the cuttings of flowering plants that we had shipped in from Costa Rica and Guatemalan greenhouses. The light levels of the February sun are increasingly brighter channeling energy to the plants and the longer day length is starting to have a drastic effect too. Last week’s seminar, Whimsy in the Garden, was well received with the largest attendance in our seminar series so far this year. Michelle Riley, the speaker, demonstrated a variety of ways to accomplish the Whimsey aspect of gardening from the extreme and expensive, to the more suttle and inexpensive, utilizing everyday articles that any homeowner might have on hand that would normally end up in the landfill. Tomorrow will be our most entertaining speaker, Carol Zeh, with her program on Hummingbirds. Last year we had to refuse last minute requests for some to attend due to overcrowding. Please call before coming to the seminar as many are already signed up and we may fill the limit again this year by today or early Saturday morning. See you at the seminar at 11 a.m. on Saturday.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Dayton "Dirt" - February 8, 2013

February 8th blog Last Saturday, the presentation given by Denise Ellsworth generated a number of questions from the audience and so much so that the seminar could easily have gone on for another hour! One fact that I found fascinating was Denise’s statement about honeybees and their communication. It seems that a worker bee that finds a particular kind of nectar and pollen will communicate with her sisters who in turn seek out the same. For example, in an orchard of multiple types of fruit trees in bloom at the same time, one particular group of bees might work the apple trees only with another group working the pears and so on. The exchange of pollen between flower of a particular species is so important that without insect cross pollination, one third of the foods that are so popular today would simply disappear. It reminds me of one of my professor’s statements in Agronomy class at ATI that without spiders helping to control insects, scientists estimate that food production would drop by one third! I’m looking forward to this Saturday’s seminar on Gardening with Whimsy by Michelle Riley as Michelle will yet reveal a whole different dimension to the garden and the landscape that will give even more pleasure to the human brain. Come join us at 11 a.m. in the Owl Barn on February 9th for Michelle’s informative talk. See you soon! Tom

Monday, February 4, 2013

Dayton "Dirt" - February 1, 2013

The first seminar of the winter series seemed to go on without a hitch. The invasive species that I did speak about was more than enough to fill the two hour time slot but so many more I would have presented only if there had been more time. Greg Snowden of the Davey Tree Company was on hand to elaborate especially on the question of invasive plants as he is an inspector of wetlands monitoring these constructed wetlands to be sure that they comply with the federal standards before they may be sold to an entity needing credits to offset the destruction of a wetland area somewhere else. Greg did mention an invasive species of grass called phragmites australis that is extremely aggressive to the point that shoots will come up through a four inch layer of freshly laid asphalt! In order to check out this monster grass you only have to go to the Interstate 76, Barber Road exit where you’ll see it growing in abundance. Tomorrow our honored speaker will be Denise Ellsworth, Honeybee and Native Pollinator Program Director of the Department of Entomology at Ohio State University. Denise has addressed many audiences including the Master Gardeners of Summit County about a wide variety of subjects. The subject at the Owl Barn tomorrow at 11 a.m. will be Pollinators - what some of them are and their importance in the natural world and our own lives. The rooting of cuttings and subsequent transplanting of all kinds of annual flowers just goes on and on especially right now with geraniums and New Guinea Impatiens. I had stated in earlier blogs, Impatiens are going to be a puzzle because of the high incident of downy mildew that caused the collapse of many plants late last summer and fall. Part of the answer to planting Impatiens in flats (Impatiens walleriana) instead are the Sun Harmony Impatiens that are resistant to downy mildew. Unfortunately the Sun Harmony Impatiens are more expensive as they must be grown from cuttings instead of a seed like Impatien walleriana. The bright side is that the Sun Harmony grow’s well when planted farther apart such as 18 inches on center which would make them more economical then one would think. Dress warmly and come to the seminar tomorrow! Tom

Dayton "Dirt" - January 25, 2013

This past week has been a flurry of activity at the nursery in preparing for the cold blast of winter! Watering in the plant storage houses is the biggest factor in preparing as some of the plants (especially evergreens) tend to dry out more then the deciduous ones because the evergreen foliage still transpires water. Almost 35 years ago I remember a conversation with my mentor, Mr. John Ravestein, about working at Klyn Nursery in Mentor, Ohio more than 45 years ago when he observed that his boss watered a storage hut with young Ohio plants before a severe cold snap but neglected to water plants at the far end of the hut because he ran out of hose. Mr. Ravestein observed that the next spring all the plants that were watered lived and those on the dry side that were not watered all died! Tomorrow the upcoming seminar is on invasive species especially insects that are ravaging our forests, farms and backyards. Hopefully the seminar will illuminate everyone’s mind just how serious the problem is and how it affects all of us. Some of the subjects covered will be the Viburnum Leaf Beetle, Asian Longhorned Beetle, Emerald Ash Borer, Ambrosia Beetles and Hemlock Wooly Adelgid. There will be a segment on past plagues that still exist today such as the American Chestnut blight and Japanese Beetle. The seminar begins at 11 a.m. with an intermission for refreshments. Hope to see you there!